Aruba airport facial recognition pilot to pave way for future European preclearance program

June 17, 2015 - 

Aruba International Airport’s biometrics-based passenger processing system pilot is slowly laying down the foundation for what stakeholders hope will eventually evolve into a broader European preclearance program, according to a report by Future Travel Experience.

The news comes a few weeks after Aruba Airport announced it will begin trialing Happy Flow, a new biometrics-based passenger processing system developed by Vision-Box, at airport check-points later this year.

Using facial recognition technology and eGates, the Happy Flow processing system is designed to improve the airport experience by taking a photo of passengers’ faces when they check in and get their passport validated at various checkpoints throughout the airport.

The project is made possible by the multiple stakeholders involved, including the governments of Aruba and the Netherlands, Schiphol Group, KLM, Aruba Airport Authority and lead contractor Vision-Box, as well as its sub-contractors, Oelan and Considerati, and SAS.

“This has been about two years in the works and it’s being driven by the fact that the government of Aruba wishes to offer preclearance for Europe,” said Annet Steenbergen, chair of the Aruba Happy Flow Board and Coordinator of Preclearance for the Government of Aruba. “It already offers this service for the US, but it wants to offer the same thing for people travelling to Europe. Happy Flow is the first step in the roadmap to have European preclearance.”

Initially implemented as a two-year pilot, Aruba Happy Flow will be amended during the next couple years at the end of each “innovation sprint,” which will last three months each.

The first innovation sprint will focus on consolidating the infrastructure, followed by the second innovation sprint, which will be devoted to the development of the “workflow orchestration” to benefit public and private partners.

Creating a seamless workflow is crucial to the project’s success. When a passenger checks in and completes the immigration checking process at a self-service kiosk, the airport stakeholders will instantly receive their data.
For example, the immigration agency will be notified when the passenger checks in, and as a result, they know that they will soon be entering the immigration checkpoint.

Using the same data that was previously available, Happy Flow makes the information far more easily accessible and actionable for each of the stakeholders.

The pilot will initially invite a number of KLM passengers with European passports, travelling on the five-times-weekly flight to Amsterdam from Aruba, to participate.

The number of participants invited to test the technology will eventually increase over time as the pilot progresses.

Once the pilot has successfully achieved its broader goal of pre-clearance in cooperation with the Dutch and EU authorities, passengers will be treated as domestic passengers when arriving in Amsterdam since they will have already completed the immigration process in Aruba.

Manuel van Lijf, director of product Innovation at Air France-KLM, who is heading up the project on KLM’s behalf, said that the project could soon be extending the number of touch-points included in Happy Flow.

Meanwhile, the development of a wider European preclearance program remains as more of a long-term goal.

“There is lots of interest and willingness, but we need to see how we can navigate the politics,” said Lijf. “It is the ultimate goal, but it will take a few years. After all, there are 26 Schengen member countries to convince.”

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.